MOH keeping strict tabs on Omicron, says Khairy

SHAH ALAM: The RTK-Antigen and RT-PCR tests to detect Covid-19 infection are effective in detecting the Omicron variant of the virus, says Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said he was informed of this by experts from the Institute of Medical Research (IMR), but tests were still being conducted to find out more about this variant.

“The RT-PCR test should be okay, but in terms of effectiveness, we are still studying it – so far, it is still able to detect the Omicron variant,” Bernama quoted him as saying at a press conference after an appreciation event held for officers and staff of the National Health Institute here yesterday.

He said a further study on the variant did not only involve detection tests but also on the effectiveness of the vaccines.

“We will be getting reports in a week or two from the manufacturers that are conducting research on the effectiveness of their vaccines against this variant.

“The third thing we should look into is the ferocity of the Omicron variant. Early reports from South Africa, which has a low vaccination rate, show that the Omicron has only caused moderate symptoms.

“There is some good news, but again we don’t really know and we have to wait and see,” he added.

Khairy said it was also too early to expect a movement control order to be reimposed following the emergence of Omicron.

“It is too early to talk about it. The public gets angry when they hear ‘MCO’. Our researchers are looking into this,” he said.

On the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), Khairy said the matter was still being discussed with Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei, now taking into consideration the emergence of the new variant.

He said a Covid-19 case was detected at the Johor Causeway entry point on the first day of the Malaysia-Singapore VTL-Land yesterday.

It was detected through RTK-Antigen on-arrival testing conducted at the international entry point.

“This matter is being verified through confirmative testing using RT-PCR. We want to use the RT-PCR test to confirm the results of the RTK-Antigen test,” he added.

He said the Johor Baru District Health Office was doing risk assessment on those who travelled on the same bus as the infected person to decide whether they need to be quarantined or subjected to other restrictions.

“Although there is one (positive) case, I do not consider it as something which can derail the VTL. Instead, it should be an example of how pre-departure and on-arrival testing are necessary preventive measures,” he added.

Khairy said the implementation of VTL yesterday was an important day for Malaysia and Singapore as it marked the reopening of their borders which had been closed for about 20 months due to the pandemic.

He also said that the Health Ministry would increase genomic surveillance at the country’s international gateways to ensure Omicron can be detected quickly,

So far, he said the government had managed to increase full genome sequence analysis capacity to 1,500 samples a month.

“With the existence of this variant of concern (VOC), I will apply to the Finance Ministry to provide an additional allocation so that we can further increase the Health Ministry’s capacity to implement genomic surveillance,” he added.

He said full genomic sequencing was important because through this way, his ministry would be able to detect the types of variants present in Malaysia.

“Through full genomic sequencing, we detected the Delta variant in Malaysia and this method is important to find out if the new variant Omicron also exists here.

“To date, the Health, Science, Technology and Innovation, and Higher Education ministries, which formed a consortium to increase Covid-19 genome sequencing capacity, have not yet received reports on the Omicron variant in Malaysia,” he said.

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Omicron , variant , Khairy Jamaluddin , covid-19


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